First Cup: Thursday

  • Tom Powers of The Pioneer Press: "Big Al Jefferson said he was sad to see Kevin McHale go. Apparently, virtually all of the players had voiced support for McHale. Jefferson said he was 'shocked, disappointed (and) hurt.' No doubt he really liked McHale as his coach. Yet it's also true that human beings tend to prefer the known to the unknown. The Wolves knew what they had in McHale. Now it gets scary. ... David Kahn took so long to make a decision, really stretched it out, as sort of a sign of respect to McHale. Yet I can't believe he ever seriously considered keeping him on board. In the end, he made the correct, if belated, judgment. And as a nod to McHale's place in Minnesota basketball history, Kahn made it look as though he hated himself for having to do it. 'Kevin, has done some really remarkable things with this franchise,' Kahn said. Yes, and a couple of them were good, too. Look, it didn't matter if it were McHale or Red Auerbach. In this instance, the coach had to do go. Kahn was more than delicate in doing the deed. All I can say is, if I should ever meet an untimely end, I want Kahn delivering the eulogy. It will be great to be remembered as a swell guy."

  • Jerry Crowe of the Los Angeles Times: "In the hoopla over Phil Jackson winning his 10th NBA title, Kobe Bryant winning his first without Shaquille O'Neal, etc., it went all but unnoticed that owner Jerry Buss won his ninth. No NBA owner ever won more. Six ownership groups presided over the Boston Celtics during their Bill Russell-led run of 11 titles in 13 years. Without Buss, who followed form by staying out of sight Wednesday as the Southland celebrated his team, there might have been far fewer Lakers parades -- or maybe none at all. They didn't get one in 1972. Their first championship celebration, in 1980, drew about 6,000 to a downtown parade and about 8,000 to a City Hall rally. Riding in her ninth parade was Marge Hearn, 91-year-old widow of Chick, who noted afterward, 'I think tonight I'll skip my dinner and stay in to see how it looked on TV because it certainly was fun. Those younger players were just in awe.' "

  • K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune: "So, Ben Gordon, do you or your agent have a backroom agreement to sign with Detroit when the free-agency period begins July 1? 'You can't even negotiate until July 1, so that's just rumors,' Gordon said Wednesday at his basketball camp in Lisle. 'I really don't know what's going to happen.' Several media outlets, including the Tribune, have reported Gordon is expected to be a primary target of the Pistons, who have roughly $23 million of salary-cap space. Former Tribune NBA reporter Sam Smith took matters to another level Wednesday, writing on Bulls.com that he has 'heard that Gordon's agent allegedly has been saying he has an $11 million promise from the Pistons.' ... 'One thing I've learned for sure in the NBA is you don't have a deal until something is signed,' Gordon said. "Come July 1, I'm excited to see what's out there. I'm excited with the possibility of getting a long-term deal.' "

  • Ronald Tillery of the Memphis Commercial Appeal: "The NBA Draft is a week away and Grizzlies brass remain in the same position they were thrust into after winning the No. 2 overall pick in last month's draft lottery. Memphis still is weighing several options. Owners of the No. 2 selection in a June 25 draft where only Blake Griffin is considered a consensus and immediate impact player, the Grizzlies are sifting through several scenarios that include exercising the pick with one of eight players or trading down to acquire multiple assets. There is even a proposed deal or two that would allow the Griz to acquire an established or emerging all-star caliber player for the No. 2 pick. Decisions. Decisions. Which direction will the Griz go when they are on the clock? This much is certain: It's way too soon to tell."

  • Ailene Voisin of the Sacramento Bee: "Arco Arena should be in lockdown mode. Doors barred. Windows covered. Sentries posted at the gates. Passwords and access codes revised. Ricky Rubio is in town, and the Kings absolutely cannot let this kid escape. Resolve his contract issues, facilitate a trade if necessary to preclude Memphis or Oklahoma City from stealing him before the Kings select at No. 4, promise him the world, and then give him the damn ball. At the mere age of 18, encased in a rangy, maturing body that stretches to almost 6-foot-5 and continues to sprout muscles at odd angles, Rubio already answers a host of critical questions confounding the Kings."

  • Mark Bradley of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: "Marvin Williams is the least essential Hawks starter. He scores points and takes rebounds but seems to leave no imprint on games, and one of the reasons Joe Johnson gets the ball with three seconds on the shot clock -- or, worse, Josh Smith gets it 25 feet from the hoop -- is that Marvin, four years a pro, still won't assert himself. I want to see Marvin not assert himself elsewhere next season. I want the Hawks to re-sign him -- he's a restricted free agent -- and ship him and Acie Law to Washington for Caron Butler and Javaris Crittenton. The Wizards are looking to cut salary, so that part would work for them, and they're also looking to get younger."

  • Jeff Schultz of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: "The Hawks shouldn't re-sign Mike Bibby. They should trade for Orlando's Rafer Alston. He requires less of an investment than Bibby and might get them further in the playoffs. Look what he just did for the Magic? ... Alston does not possess Bibby's scoring ability. But he's a better defender and can penetrate, which is what the Hawks need. And unlike the scenario of re-signing Bibby to a multi-year contract, acquiring Alston affords management flexibility after next season. A trade wouldn't be difficult because Alston is 32 and expendable. Even then, they have pieces to move, starting with Marvin Williams."

  • A. Sherrod Blakely of Booth Newspapers: "The big concern with Trevor Ariza, as is often the case with players who have breakout performances in the playoffs, is if his strong postseason play was an aberration. For every Chauncey Billups, whose strong play during the 2002 playoffs off Minnesota's bench made him a prized free-agent target for the Pistons, you have an Austin Croshere, who never lived up to the big-time contract he received from Indiana after a strong showing in the 2000 playoffs. The Pistons' level of interest will intensify if they make a trade involving Tayshaun Prince that nets them an impact power forward or center. While nothing is imminent, Prince remains one of the most likely Pistons to be traded this summer because of to his contract (two years, $21.5 million remaining), postseason experience and versatility. What would it take to land Ariza? He made $3.1 million this season. A multiyear deal with a sala
    ry double that amount is likely."

  • Michael Lee of The Washington Post: "Nick Young has been hard at work trying to bounce back from a difficult sophomore campaign and impress a new coaching staff at the same time. In addition to taking defensive tips from Flip Saunders, Young has also been working on getting shots off the ball. Young said Saunders has been putting him through some of the same shooting-off-screen drills that Richard Hamilton used in Detroit. 'Something I'm not used to, but it's working for me,' Young said. Young has been going back and forth between Los Angeles and Washington this summer. He played in the Drew Summer League in Los Angeles with pros such as Detroit's Amir Johnson, Boston's Gabe Pruitt, Minnesota's Bobby Brown, and even JaVale McGee. Since he shipped all of his cars back home after the season, Young said that Gilbert Arenas has allowed him to borrow his 'beat up' car from high school to drive back-and-forth to the arena for workouts. In return, Arenas has asked that Young provide transportation to the arena for workouts and drop him off at home. 'It's been good,' he said."

  • Phil Jasner of the Philadelphia Daily News: "Donyell Marshall has sponsored an AAU team for 15 years, has coached it himself the last couple of seasons. Now, the 76ers' unrestricted free agent is in Charlottesville, Va., helping coach young athletes during a National Basketball Players Association camp that focuses as much on life skills as on basketball. 'I've kind of been preparing for this moment, whenever it comes, whenever I do retire as a player,' Marshall, 36, said on the phone yesterday. 'I've never said I wouldn't keep playing. In fact, I'd definitely like to do that, but we'll have to see what happens with teams' plans. "I've played 14 years, and normally there might be teams that would keep a player like me to help work with the younger guys. But the economy hurts everybody; teams are making cuts they might not normally make. Maybe they only keep 13 or 14 players instead of 15, and that impacts somebody like me.' Marshall is recovering from surgery last week on his right wrist, resolving a problem that 'bothered me all season.' "

  • Joe Freeman of The Oregonian: "He answers to the nickname Psycho T, spent part of one summer in college pushing an SUV around a parking lot at the University of North Carolina to build strength, and has been immortalized by a photo in which blood spews from his nose. Tough? Ah, yeah. If one thing personifies Tyler Hansbrough, it's toughness. And since the Trail Blazers have stated that attaining toughness is one of their biggest offseason goals, perhaps no NBA draft prospect would be a more ideal fit than the former North Carolina forward. 'There's not a split second that he's not going as hard as he can,' Blazers general manager Kevin Pritchard said. 'If you were to mark down how many times he hit the floor today, I'm sure the over/under was five, and you just expect that. He's kind of a lunch pail, hard hat kind of guy. The thing about Tyler is ... he's going to bring every single ounce of energy and he's going to knock you in your mouth. He's going to get hit, too. It looks like he kind of enjoys pain a little bit.' "

  • Kyle Hightower of the Orlando Sentinel: "When you're trying to build a new $480 million arena in tough economic times, a few breaks along the way are definitely helpful. In the Orlando Magic's case, their run to the NBA Finals has certainly added some energy and momentum for the ongoing arena construction. Magic Chief Operating Officer Alex Martins said that the financial boost from reaching the postseason's championship round (which included 12 home games) has helped the team's bottom line. Martins estimates the Magic have lost an average of $15 million each season during the last half-dozen years. They will likely lose money again this year. But revenues from the playoff run, as well as the $10 million they got from the renewal of a league-wide credit facility, will help bridge their operation losses and debt."